I'm in my ninth decade of life, born in a mid-South state, son of a lifelong coal miner, a one-time constant churchgoer and amateur theologian and politician since I became of age. Since becoming eligible, I've voted every year, including all local, midterm and general elections. I've attended both Catholic and Protestant church services here and abroad. I'm a military veteran, served in Europe, in England after World War II and met people from all over the world.

I served to protect and defend America from Nazism, Communism and fascism. I saw this as not only a patriotic duty but a moral one. Now in my 80s, I see that my efforts may have gone for naught.

The surrogates of the enemy I fought have re-emerged in neo-renditions of Nazism, Communism and fascism in the form of racism, bigotry, greed, the rejection of allies that helped us defeat totalitarianism and the dereliction of the church that once stood up for value and principle that guided us for centuries.

Have we forgotten the conflict that gave us life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? Have we rejected the tenets of the Constitution that, supposedly, guarantees us universal equality among all citizens, regardless of sex, race, religion, or national origin?

Have we lost the memory of the One that said the wayward accrual of wealth and the greed that caused it, the speech and practice of hypocrisy and the lies behind it and the horrific cruelty of man vs. man promoting self-preservation at the expense of everything else, won't lead him to paradise?

What have we become? Who are we? Is this the same country that so many fought and died for that it once was?

James D. Cook